Things to do in Lima when you’re hungry.

So we may be done driving in exotic lands, and almost done with the distance driving in general.  But we had some time to kill while the WEHR OSTE (and the container containing our vehicle) noodles its way from Panama to Miami.

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Ever obsessively track an Amazon delivery?  This is even more maddening.

We first checked where we could fly from Panama and back to Miami relatively cheaply. One of the original possibilities was Cartagena, Colombia – one of the best preserved colonial cities in South America.  But after spending so much time in the Panamanian heat, we were less enthused about an arguably hotter destination.  And we get bored with islands too quickly, so the other cheap destination (Curacão) was out on principle.

The third option was Lima, Peru.  In what seems like a stroke of luck, Lima is only about a three hour flight from Panama City, and the round trip from PTY to LIM to MIA only cost about $500 a person.  And Lima’s climate would come as cool relief after months in and out of the Central American heat.  But what would we do while we were there?  Not knowing much about Peru except the cuisine and Macchu Picchu, we decided to go for it anyway – because the cuisine and Macchu Picchu are more than enough.

It turns out that Lima is a cut above all of the cities we had visited already on this trip, sophistication-wise as well as size-wise.  While suffering from some of the same issues as other Latin American cities (e.g. the worst traffic manners we’ve seen so far, lack of easily usable public transit, wealth inequality), most of the areas we have visited so far have been really nice – interesting restaurants everywhere, arty shops, varied and interesting architecture, and sweet people.  And at 9 million inhabitants, there is a LOT of city to explore here.

So what did we do?  Well, duh, we ate.  Amazingly well, in fact.  Check out this slide show!

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Burgers and rings at Papacho’s – the pickles were homemade, btw.
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Fresh, amazing ceviche (chunks of fresh fish tossed with lime juice and spices to “cure”) at Mercado Surquillo #1 – $6!  With a blue corn drink called Chicha Morada, and plenty more fresh seafood in the case beyond.
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Malabar’s regional specialties – from top right, stuffed rabbit with quinoa, smoked fish from the Amazon basin with local grain and pickle salad, and dessert of homemade toasted marshmallow with chocolate “stones” and coffee ground “earth.”
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Chef Javier Wong demonstrates his wok skill (Chez Wong).  His ceviche was a marvel of simplicity and freshness which we hoovered up too quickly to photograph.
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Country ham sandwich with onion and pepper relish at Bar Cordano, a 110 year old staple of Downtown Lima.
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Mashed potato pie stuffed with seafood?  Everyone at La Buena Muerte had this before their meal, with good reason.
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Doesn’t look like much, but this was an amazing stir fry of seafood and perfectly cooked noodles, whomped with ginger.  La Buena Muerte is a so-called Peruvian Nikkei restaurant, a cuisine which adapted Japanese food to the then-available Peruvian ingredients.  (To delicious, delicious effect, I might add.)
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Tacu Tacu (bean and rice mash with seafood in spicy sauce) at La Buena Muerte.
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Sandwiches of chicharron pork (top) and country ham with cheese and avocado (bottom), with fries, at La Lucha.
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A goofball and two bowls (Katsudon and ramen) at Naruto.

Yes, this is an embarrassment of riches – at every price point from dirt cheap to fancy.  It should come to no surprise to longtime readers of my food criticism that I feel, so far, the lower end of the price spectrum offers more value than the higher end.  However, every meal we’ve had so far (including even the burgers, which are a part of the empire of Gaston Acurio, the most famous Peruvian chef) has had unique flavors and ingredients or combinations which I don’t think we’d get anywhere else.

More food photos and an update on the rest of our activities in Lima coming soon.

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